BCS stakes its future on new online services for IT people

The BCS is rolling out an ambitious programme called BCS Connect which aims to put Web-based services at the heart of the...

The BCS is rolling out an ambitious programme called BCS Connect which aims to put Web-based services at the heart of the relationship between the society and the IT community, writes Colin Thompson, BCS Connect programme director.

The project represents the biggest investment in member services and the wider IT community in BCS history.

The BCS was one of the first professional bodies to set up a Web site. Since its launch in the mid-1990s, the BCS site has grown to more than 5,000 pages and has almost 40,000 unique visitors a month.

Useful though this service is, it was clear that a simple repository of information, however large, would not meet the needs of the IT community. The BCS needed ways to exploit the Internet and the Web to add much greater value.

The new system is designed to provide a much more interactive and intelligent service, with the Web front-end linked to the BCS' back-office systems. An essential part of this will be the links with the main database of BCS members and other contacts, which will ensure that services are more closely tailored to the interests and access rights of individuals.

The heart of the new system is an information management system, providing users with the latest information that may be of interest to them, based on the society's knowledge of their requirements and driven from the core administrative systems. Built-in security will ensure that a single log-on will enable registered users to reach all the areas of the site and view all the documents for which they have access permission.

BCS Connect will ultimately change almost every aspect of BCS business. The full range of facilities is being developed and delivered in a series of phases, extending over several years.

Stage one facilities, to be rolled out over the next few months, will include a list server, online updating of individual records, online registration for the new BCS forums, and threaded discussion groups.

About 40% of BCS members notify a change to some aspect of their personal records each year, and online updating should improve both member service and administrative efficiency.

Online forum registration will allow both BCS members and others to join the three forums that were set up last October. Web-based discussion groups will provide one of the main channels through which BCS members can engage with each other and with the society itself in the future.

The facilities being introduced over the next few months will form the foundation for the BCS Connect service. Candidates for early development include membership renewals, registration for professional examinations and BCS Information Systems Examinations Board qualifications, continuing professional development and personal experience record facilities, reservations for conferences and seminars, Internet trading, and committee and specialist group management facilities.

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